The Fishermen

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It is hard to write on a day when you’re afraid. Anxiety crawling up to shorten the breath. Thoughts chasing the innocent thinker. So I head out. Down the sandy path. Out onto the beach on a creamy white day.  I head north towards the river mouth. Fear they say is false evidence appearing real. Consider then…the oncoming train, the hurricane, the rapist, the shots your friend heard from a car driving down the street near his home in L.A. And then they say fear is a lack of faith. Feeling it pronounces you guilty like hanging out with some illegal alien, a foreign intruder, a terrorist, a monster in the closest, or an unwelcome guest with a private disease.

So I keep walking. Everything is fresh in the morning. Snow white foam on the waves. Stone after stone being revealed in the rising and falling of the tide. Then I see the fishermen. Lined up in a row down the beach. Each one faithfully casting his line. I asked one if he was catching anything.

Going for the red-tailed perch, he said.  I use sand crabs and plastic worms, said another.

He pulls in a small perch and throws it back. It’s the fishing I love, he says…the casting and the waiting…the closeness to the sea…the tug of the line…reeling it in…holding the living thing for a moment…and then giving it back to the great sea…It’s a thrill. 

Maybe the fear that seems to chase is really like the tide that ebbs bringing in gray seas of clinging doubt…the silent coming of the panic of falling into nothing…the closeness of death taking shape like a dark mass of freezing rain…a dark corner in a strange city… a lie uncovered…or the fights your parents had, the bad ones, late at night. The tide rising and then receding…tumbling and turning the stones…revealing their basic mineral selves…and then leaving them…washed….shining…clean. But not an enemy. Not an alien. Just a guest. The other friend. That you don’t mention much. The dark one that comes around at inopportune times. Who is always counting, demanding…that the rent be paid. But Jesus didn’t say, even on that pitch dark night of the frightening storm…Oh ye of too much fear…there is no raging gale…no deep abyss…no passionate risk…when he walked out to the boat and reached out his hand to the rain drenched fishermen.  He just said, with all the love of the universe in his eyes…Step out! Stay with me! And keep coming…Just keep coming!